As it is also winter in Nepal right now, the Covid-19 is raging in overpopulated Kathmandu four times more than in summer. As expected, the government is proving incapable of dealing with the Corona crisis. The urgent advice of competent virologists does not interest Head of State Oli. He refuses to leave his residence for fear of becoming infected, and only now and then does he ask politicians to visit him to discuss with them how he can stay in power even longer. The old sick man, who was medically treated for years with taxpayers' money and still received a kidney transplant in March, is not bothered by the fact that only wealthy people have the chance to be treated against the virus.
The other infected people hide at home and prefer to keep quiet about their suffering for fear of being expelled. Instead of helping his people fight the disease, Prime Minister Oli has ordered several electric crematoria because the ancient cremation ghats from the holy Paschupatinath in Kathmandu are no longer doing their job. Hospitals are overcrowded, and there is a shortage of respirators, hospital beds, doctors and trained nurses. More than 50% of Nepalese are now unemployed and completely destitute.
Major construction sites started after the earthquake have been at a standstill for ten months. Half-built bridges and buildings are already crumbling, and Himalayan roads made impassable by the monsoon are too brittle to withstand the use of bulldozers. The country's economy could not be worse off: After the month-long lockdown, food has become unaffordable, and family malnutrition has soared. Children and the many women who have become pregnant during this period have been particularly hard hit.
A group of wealthy people had come together to provide 700 needy people with a hot meal every day. After a few weeks, the mayor of Kathmandu had the distribution point evicted by the police. The fact that the people in the slums of the capital are not yet starving is only thanks to various small organizations like ours. The international community has its own concerns at the moment, and has drastically reduced financial support to Nepal. The government, whose duty it should be to take care of its people, is planning to tax these small foreign NGOs in the future!
Since travel to Nepal is impossible at this time, we work with Muna and Sushma daily via the Internet. These virtual meetings make our joint work focused and very efficient. In Thapathali, the slum dwellers are provided with basic food by the Korean sect that has been doing missionary work here for two years. Here, as in the other slums we serve, milk porridge enriched with vitamins and minerals is distributed daily to the children. The people are especially grateful for the drinking water that we have brought to the settlement three times a week.
Muna goes from hut to hut every day and reports about many sick people who hide in their dwellings because they are afraid of being infected with the virus and of being disowned by their neighbors or their landlord. In the slums, just as in the somewhat better dwellings of the capital, the business of renting miserable shacks is flourishing. The poor do not hesitate to exploit the even poorer, and here distrust prevails between the slum dwellers. The sick can only afford paracetamol as medication. Oxygen is rare and can only be paid for by the rich.
Our staff is in contact with a doctor who tells them what drugs are currently used for severe Covid-19 cases, but the people from the slum prefer not to get tested and keep quiet about the disease.
If someone dies, they are just secretly taken to be burned in the middle of the night. Many pregnant women in the slum prefer to give birth "at home" for fear of getting infected in the hospital. In the Banshigat slum, the school and kindergarten remain closed, but the children come daily to eat their milk porridge.
The energetic person in charge of the slum, Bina, manages to play out her relationships with government officials of her caste so that her fellow residents do not starve. Through our long-standing cooperation with the inhabitants of this slum, there is solidarity between the people here. A hut has been provided to isolate and care for those infected. Many recover, but every now and then one dies.
Despite the pandemic, many destitute Nepalese from the slums want to go back abroad to apply for the jobs that no one wants to do there. For three years, women have not been allowed to work in the Gulf countries because too many of them were exploited and sexually abused there. But this ban has now been lifted by the Nepalese government so that hard currency, which had finally helped Nepal boom in recent years, can come back into the country. On September 30, a contract was even signed with Israel: According to it, 500 nurses will be "imported" from Nepal to Tel Aviv to make up for the shortage of nurses for Covid 19 patients on the cheap.
In Mudhku village. where we had built twenty earthquake-proof houses for the neediest untouchables after the (2015 earthquake) most families have at least one member who worked in nearby Kathmandu before the lockdown. Today, they are all unemployed. Many had borrowed money from the bank to build a similar house based on "our" design. The whole village lives in more dignified and hygienic conditions than other villages, but most people are now hopelessly in debt, and even for them, money is too scarce for a balanced diet for the families now in winter.
Throughout Nepal, schools have been closed for 10 months. The government plans to open them soon so they can teach their students virtually. It completely ignores the fact that few children own computers and that most areas have no access to Wi-Fi. Radio stations are making an effort to provide a few hours of instruction a day, but Nepal's education level, which was already very low, will suffer greatly from the Corona crisis.
The ethnic group of Madhesis, who come from southern Nepal and northern India, includes "our" Maute clan, who are camped near the airport. Because of their dark skin color, they are constantly discriminated against, and today they are even accused of having infected the whole of Nepal with the virus. In fact, it is the many Nepalese who have become unemployed in India due to the pandemic who have returned home en masse and infected the entire country.
Without Kinderhilfe Nepal, the children and adults of the clan here would have literally starved to death in recent months. Every three weeks, Sushma and Muna distribute rice, beans, lentils, soybeans, oil, spices and, above all, soap in the camp. For cooking, they pick up old pieces of wood on the street. At night, they are often attacked by hoodlums hoping to find something edible under the poor tents. Our staff motivates the women by teaching them how to make small rugs out of old clothes. Instead of going begging, which they are not allowed to do at the moment, they could earn something this way.
The men try to sell their homemade healing juices and ointments on the street, but they too are constantly chased away by the police. At night, however, they are still very "active" and as everywhere in the slums, several women are pregnant again. Our ninety Maute friends are infinitely grateful to Kinderhilfe Nepal for their support, and the women wanted to express their heartfelt thanks to you with the attached photo. Even though they are worried about the future, the nature of these people remains fundamentally cheerful, and their being radiates only affection and kindness.
How long the Covid-19 will continue to dominate humanity, no one knows. The valley of Kathmandu is one of the 10 places in the world where air pollution is the highest, and many doctors wonder how the already weakened lungs of the capital's inhabitants will withstand this first Corona winter. Water for washing hands is scarce, and physical distance is impossible to maintain as people live close together in this part of the world. All of our staff would like to thank you especially for the fact that, despite the crisis, they regularly receive their monthly wages, something that cannot be taken for granted in Nepal at the moment! Muna and Sushma feel very connected and proud that thanks to Kinderhilfe Nepal and their own efforts about 300 children have the chance to be protected in this difficult situation and that this support also benefits the families. Thank you all for your extraordinary loyalty in this work!
We wish you a Merry Christmas